One year later, the #MeToo movement still has steam. 

It's been a year since the first headlines broke, but the #MeToo movement is still inspiring changes in workplaces throughout the country - most recently in California. In addition to legally mandated sexual harassment trainings, which we covered in this blog post, companies with California employees should know about a slew of new bills signed into law in September by California Governor Jerry Brown. These new laws affect every stage of the employment relationship, from hiring new applicants to settling claims with former employees.

Important California provisions include:

  • Non-Disparagement and Confidentiality Clauses within Agreements: Under Senate Bill 820 employment and separation agreements must not prohibit an employee from disclosing information about unlawful behavior in the workplace, including sexual harassment. Take-away: #MeToo inspired legislation is continuing to gain traction. Review your agreements to ensure they don't cross the line by gagging individuals from discussing harassment; include a whistleblower protection provision.    
  • Sexual Harassment Training in the #MeToo Age:  Senate Bill 1343 requires employers with five or more employees, including temporary employees, to provide at least 2 hours of sexual harassment training to all supervisors, and at least 1 hour of sexual harassment training to all other employees, by January 1, 2020. The bill also directs the CA DFEH to create online training modules that employees could take to fulfill the new requirements (more to come)! Take-away: Time to beef up your annual training programs.   
  • Lactation Accommodation: Assembly Bill 1976 clarifies that employers must make "reasonable efforts" to secure the exclusive use of a room, other than a bathroom, to qualify as a temporary lactation location for employers who are unable to provide a permanent lactation room. Take-away: Review your lactation accommodation policy; ensure that a private, enclosed space, other than a bathroom, in close proximity to the employee's work area is provided. 
  • Raises and Bonuses: Under Senate Bill 1300,employers may not make a raise or bonus contingent upon an employee releasing a future legal claim or right. Take-away: Time to take another look at your bonus and raise agreements and/or policies. 
  • Settlement Agreements: Also under SB 820 settlement agreements with employees may not prohibit the employee from disclosing information related to sexual assault, sexual harassment, or sex-based discrimination. Confidentiality provisions regarding the amount paid are still enforceable. Take-away: Review your agreements to ensure they do not prohibit the employee from disclosing this sex-based information. 

A Noteworthy Veto: One notable bill would have prohibited mandatory arbitration agreements. Governor Brown vetoed this bill, explaining that it was contrary to the Federal Arbitration Act. Therefore, mandatory employment arbitration agreements are still safe in California... for now.

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